Kathleen Martens and Todd Lamirande
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s time for the rail barricades “paralyzing key infrastructure” across Canada to come down.
“This is unacceptable and untenable,” Trudeau told a Friday afternoon news conference.
”Canadians have been patient, our government has been patient.”
But the economic impact has hurt too many people as the blockades enter their third week in solidarity with hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northern B.C., he told reporters.
Hereditary chiefs and their supporters oppose construction of a pipeline that will carry fracked natural gas across their traditional territory and have defied an injunction giving Coastal GasLink (CGL) access.
Elected band councils have signed off on the project, and the conflict has grabbed international attention.
Behind the scenes, Trudeau said there have been high-level attempts to reach “a peaceful resolution.”
But he said hereditary chiefs have consistently rebuffed the government’s overtures.
“We have exhausted our capacity to engage in a positive, substantive and active way to resolve this,” Trudeau said.
“The barricades must come down.”
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At the same time, he said the chiefs have made “a series of different requests and demands,” namely that CGL leave the area entirely.
Their first “ask” to have the RCMP leave their territory has been met, the prime minister added, noting the RCMP did “independently” decommission their post.
But the government can’t negotiate Indigenous rights and title by itself, Trudeau said, and for that reason he was ending the dialogue and calling on Indigenous leaders to convince protesters to remove the barricades.
“The onus is on them,” he said.
Failing that, the prime minister said the next step would be police enforcement of laws and injunctions.
And he hoped there would be no violence.
But the longer it dragged on, the more the standoff was hurting Canadians and the country’s work on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Trudeau added.
In the meantime, he said he would leave the door open to Indigenous leaders to meet with government.